The Rocket sets off fireworks as tensions grow with Barry Hearn
The relationship between the duo has never been so fractured (photo: Getty Images / Warren Little)

The Rocket sets off fireworks as tensions grow with Barry Hearn

Ronnie O'Sullivan launched an avalanche of criticism at the head of snooker over the weekend.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

Ronnie O'Sullivan is never far from a spell of controversy but his latest attack on the Chairman of World Snooker via Twitter took tensions to a new level.

Barry Hearn has spent the best part of the last decade trying to improve the commercial interest of the sport but O'Sullivan has regularly criticised his methods saying they are not ideal for players from the top to the bottom.

'World Snooker are nicking all the money'

Fielding questions and comments from fans and players alike, The Rocket vented his anger at the schedule, prize money and playing conditions.

Responding to former world number three, Neal Founds, O'Sullivan claimed: 'World snooker are nicking all the money, cutting corners left right and centre, and making you guys run around like headless chickens, chasing ranking points.'

He later added: [World Snooker] 'get [th]em dashing back and forth to China to chase a few ranking points to potentially get in a handful of events that are half decent and worth playing in.'

Targeting Hearn, O'Sullivan continued: 'All he’s interested in is getting a few quid out the game. Players conditions venues and logistics is a complete joke for all players.'

Hearn, who defended selected tweets, responded: 'Coming from you Ronnie that's hilarious.'

'They don't care about the players'

Hearn announced during last year's World Championships that there is more prize money on offer than ever before but O'Sullivan suggested it is not fairly distributed. He explained: 'It’s costing most guys 25k a year to be a pro. I don’t know how they do it.

They don’t care about the players, as long as the first prizes sound decent the rest is irrelevant.'

When asked by a fan if professional snooker could come to Derby, the 42-year old responded: 'If you have a filthy old leisure centre up there, world snooker love a dive.'

 

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'You have to hope forward thinking people will take the sport over'

O'Sullivan claimed that World Snooker are not listening to the voices of the players. 'They already have a players board who they don’t listen to, the board is there to make you think the players have voice, but they ain’t.'

However, the five-time World Champion also suggested not enough players stand up to Hearn. 'Players have got no bottle, [John] Higgins, Ding [Junhui] and [Neil] Robertson are the only ones who have some balls.'

When discussing the future of the sport, O'Sullivan explained, 'you have to hope forward thinking people will take the sport over in the future.'

However, in response to Masters champion, Mark Allen, he claimed 'it’s only gonna get worse, buckle up and enjoy the ride.'

Speaking of his own future, the Rocket concluded: 'I’d love to play more, but can’t face the decline in venues and conditions, rather go do some exes [exhibitions] and sit on the couch with Eurosport.'

Is snooker in crisis?

O'Sullivan believes that 'as a player, it's never been worse.' Yet ticket sales, global publicity and income for the sport has never been greater.

A growing schedule that takes snooker across the world, combined with a sheer unpredictability at every competition continues to draw more and more spectators to the sport. From a financial perspective, snooker is at a peak.

Yet Hearn is stuck between a rock and a hard place with these latest comments from O'Sullivan. The Rocket has built his career on controversy and outspoken comments mixed with a sublime talent at the table. He is undoubtedly the face of the sport and is a huge pulling point for snooker. 

Hearn finds himself unable to discipline his prize asset through fear that he will pull the plug, after numerous threats, on his career altogether. Even midway through the barrage of tweets, Hearn responded: 'I think he is a phenomenal asset to the sport. A genius on the table.'

O'Sullivan has a point

However, negative PR is becoming far too commonplace for snooker. Several top professionals continually take to Twitter to criticise the current regime. Those that are quieter, and generally further down the rankings, are ones that O'Sullivan alludes to when he talks about them spending fortunes for very little in return.

Several of the more unknown names have been seen to drop out of the sport altogether. A string of match-fixing investigations have also done little to promote the sport. 

Albeit not the most professional outburst, O'Sullivan certainly has a point with the majority of his comments.

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